Requiem for the Middleman

t hasn’t been a great week for Airbnb. On Tuesday representatives of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and lawyers for the apartment sublet company Airbnb met in an Albany court. At issue is a broad subpoena issued by the New York AG last fall, demanding that Airbnb turn over information about its “hosts” (those who list their apartments) in the belief that thousands of them are in violation of the law by acting as de facto unregistered hotels. Airbnb has challenged the subpoena on the grounds that it constitutes an invasion of privacy of the thousands of people who use its service. Then, on Wednesday, the San Francisco city attorney brought suit against two local landlords, alleging that they illegally evicted residents in order to convert residential housing into short-term rentals advertised on Airbnb and similar services.

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The Sharing Economy and the Symbiotics of City Life

Sharing and so-called “collaborative consumption” is poised to alter city life, company life, and family life. We now use digital tools to assist in sharing cars, bikes and apartments. But we’ve always shared apartments, restaurants, libraries, workspace and health clubs. As a host of new platforms transform the economics of sharing, what are the parameters of these new transparent eco-systems? How are business, social and cultural norms re-orienting around collaborative consumption and the sharing economy?

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